Advocate hopes Denver vote on hallucinogenic mushrooms spurs more research

An advocate behind the passage of Denver’s referendum that effectively decriminalizes psilocybin, the psychoactive substance in hallucinogenic mushrooms, told Hill.TV he hopes the move will spur further research on the substance.

“We need more research, and so we’re also hoping that decriminalizing here in Denver will help get more research,” Kevin Matthews, head of the Decriminalize Denver movement that got the initiative on the ballot, said in an interview that aired Friday.

“Because although we know that psilocybins have great medical potential, it’s physically safe for most people and it's nonaddictive there are some more areas that we should explore," he added.

Denver is poised to became the first U.S. city to decriminalize psychedelic psilocybin, also known as “magic mushrooms.”

The referendum passed with 50.6 percent of the vote. The city's elections division is expected to certify the final results on May 16.

The new statute would require Denver law enforcement to treat personal use and possession of psilocybin among those 21 and older as their lowest priority. It also would prevent the city from using any funds or resources to pursue criminal charges.

While opponents have expressed concern that psilocybin legalization could lead to further drug use, proponents of the measure argue that the drug is safe and nonaddictive.

Matthews told Hill.TV that psilocybin could also have some therapeutic benefits for those with mental illness, saying the substance helped him cope with depression.

“Mushrooms aren’t something that I had to turn to over and over and over again because the results were immediately effective,” he said.

But Matthews emphasized that the substance must be used responsibly, citing a part of the referendum that would create a review panel to assess the impact of decriminalization in Denver and potentially explore next steps. He said the panel would include members of Denver City Council, law enforcement and medical professionals. 

“Along with that, there’s this really robust network that’s grown out of this movement here in Denver that really includes medical professionals,” he told Hill.TV. “Now that we’ve successfully passed this measure, it’ll be imperative that we really bring all of these different groups together.”

—Tess Bonn